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The surprising reason everyone should live abroad at least once

The opportunities for travel are great, the new experiences you have are fun, the people you meet are inspiring, and you may even end up furthering your career – there are some very obvious and very attractive reasons to pack up and move abroad at some point in life.

But the most important reason why everyone should live abroad at least once is simpler – and much closer to home. As a recent study shows, you don’t truly know who you are until you’ve lived abroad.

You achieve a better sense of ‘self’

Moving to a foreign land is an immense learning curve – and not just in the ways you’d imagine. Yes, you’ll have to navigate the local buses, find out the hard way that supermarkets don’t open on Sundays, and (most importantly) learn a new language. But you’ll also learn who you are when faced with navigating these hurdles.

Are you decisive, timid, shy or outgoing? Do you boldly step on the first bus that arrives and see where it takes you, or do you approach a local and ask for help? Is making new friends effortless or do you have to pretend you’re not scared when meeting new people? There’s only one way to find out.

Your outlook on cultures changes

Picture this: you’re running late for the train and the platform is crowded; instead of an orderly queue, it’s a free-for-all. You’ve no choice but to join the crowd and shove your way onto the train. And it works! Nobody is offended and your actions, which would have felt alien at home, are accepted: it’s the norm here. How odd. You start questioning the need to queue and *BAM*, you’re questioning the cultural norms of your old life. You’re learning to think for yourself.

By comparing the two cultures, research proves that you, in turn, become a more reflective, critical and open-minded individual. The more time you spend in your new location abroad, the more you start to assimilate – you become a little bit more local every day. Soon you begin to choose the elements of life and ways of thinking that you like the best from both cultures, and you form your own individual set of opinions, unique to you.

Your values can start to change

Material goods and y’know, stuff, that you once treasured at home but couldn’t bring with you, feel less important when you realise that you can live without them. You learn that home truly is where the heart is.

The same is true for relationships. When you move away, keeping in touch with everyone in your life becomes harder, and you’ll soon see who is worth the effort – and who makes the effort! While some friendships may fade, others will only grow deeper: Quality beats quantity.

Besides, you’ll also know that no matter how long you stay, home and familiar comforts are always just a short trip (or maybe a long-haul flight) away.

And that helps you figure things out

Another plus of knowing who you are is knowing what you want out of a career. You’ll quickly learn your strengths, weaknesses, what you prioritise in life and what your dream job could look like. Living abroad and learning another language are sought-after points on your CV and lets employers know that you’re self-assured, confident and have diverse life experience behind you.

Knowing yourself also means knowing that you can handle the challenges in your future. Once you’ve worked out how to pay your bills and start a job or school abroad, you’ll boast far stronger essential life skills than if you’d stayed at home in a world that you already know. You’ll be set for life, basically.

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